Everyone's already said all the Big Things on and about both sides of this Presidential race. I'm certainly not going to try to say anything new or different. It's already a bit strange to me that I'm going to post about the election at all. In fact, I try to be as unpolitical as possible on this blog, as it's mostly about my children and family--something that I really don't want muddied up by the sort of emotions politics can arouse in people. Same reason I don't really talk much about religion or faith, even though I consider myself a thoughtful, conflicted Christian. I try to talk here about the life I'm actually living with my family, and the things I'm doing day to day. Most of the time I figure that if you really want to dig down into all the why's and how's of me then you probably just need to get to know me in real life. I feel the same about you.
Politics and religion like to use big, scary words that can mean all sorts of different things depending on the speaker or user and the thought of trying to constantly explain myself is exhausting. And pointless. Friendship, relationship and empathy are the things that really have the power to change the world. Government always fails in the end.
So here is my twenty-five cents. Mostly for my daughters, who will read this one day. Do I really think a new President is going to mean instant improvement or a suddenly new and better direction for our country? No. We've had eight years of a certain kind of special and then there's our general history, as a nation made up of flawed humans, of taking a long time to do the right thing regarding pretty much ANYTHING. If we ever do get around to it. (See also: Native Americans, slavery, women's rights, hate crimes, etc. etc.) At the same time I never want to take for granted the unique privilege our founding fathers gave us by participating in this democracy with my vote. Much less the many women who fought hard and risked everything in order to be granted a voice in their nation's and families' future. I am a woman. I would be dishonoring them and their blood, tears, bruises, and broken bones if I didn't also participate. I hope my daughters will always have an equal voice and say in their future and in their country.
The other reason I vote is this: I have a firm conviction, from which I cannot be moved, that human life can't be divided up into little boxes with a different price tag on each. You can't be pro-life and pro-war, anti-abortion and pro-death penalty. It's impossible. Life is either valuable to you or it's not. Or you should at least use the term Pro-Certain-Types-of-Life. What's the morality in bringing human beings into this world that our society refuses to care for? When are we going to start treating poverty as the real epidemic, not abortions chosen by women in serious crisis? When are we going to start dealing with the root causes of our country's problems, instead of trying to put a moral band-aid on everything? When are we going to face up to the scary realities of incest, abuse, children that go to sleep hungry every night, children with no chance of health care, children who experience violence from the moment they are born with no one to protect them or cry out on their behalf, children who are natural targets for prostitution, child-pornography, and worse...? When are we going to evolve as a society and world beyond killing each other as a way of proving our point? Probably never. Certainly not soon enough, it's already far past too late.
But I vote because I won't give up the hope that the America I love, this vast expanse of wealth and resources and eternal optimism, will one day face head-on these injustices and have the courage to make real and significant changes. It's not something that can be mandated, though. People would actually have to just start DOING IT. And America is pretty self-absorbed so it's probably a foolish hope. In the meantime I'm trying to do what I can with my own small moment in time--making friends, connecting people with resources, listening to people's stories, telling my own story of survival and hope, trying to find middle ground and peace with others, and raising my girls to believe that every human being deserves to be loved and cared for.
Please vote. And when you do, think of the women who braved torment and ridicule, rape and beatings, in order to grant you this great privilege.
Baby Birdie Adeleine is now 3 months old. This time I'm not going to ask where the time has gone because I know. It has moved stickily slow on the bad days (the puking, constipated, screaming, inconsolable ones) and then flown by on wings of cotton tulle on the good ones (the happy, peaceful, soft-tummied, pooping ones).
She is getting so big. So far she's long and lean like her sister was, but different somehow. Somehow softer and squishier, even though she's not exactly a chub. Her hands and feet seem really big to me. She's longer-bodied so far, but not to the extreme that Pea was.
Her funny, wispy hair just gets longer and longer. That is, the parts that aren't falling out in patches. I call it her Baby Mange.
She's just started blowing bubbles and she's very particular with her vocalizations. She absolutely has different sounds for different needs, and instead of just crying she has these little half-formed sounds that she makes in with her cries. She tends to sound like a really frustrated, anciently-old lady. It's so cute and funny.
She continues to be a champion night time sleeper. The daytime thing, though, is beyond me. She will almost always fall right to sleep in her stretchy fleece sling--it's still her favorite place--and sometimes she will sleep for a couple of hours tightly swaddled and in a sleep positioner so she feels nice and secure.
But some days she hardly sleeps till evening and by then we are a both a pretty (desperate) picture.
She is starting to connect a bit more with Jeffrey and not be so incensed at the thought of anyone but me holding her (especially if I'm within sight or smell) but some days are decidedly better than others. Pea and Jeffrey are such good buddies now and Birdie is becoming a good little companion, so most of the time I'm more than happy to always have her with me. Every now and then I'll try to sneak out for an hour to Target or to try on some clothes when I don't have to nurse or negotiate every time she sees my breasts, and Jeffrey is wonderful to let me do this occasionally, but it's not usually a fun time for anyone but me.
She's still sweet as can be, with sparkly blue eyes and the best, crooked-mouth smiles and one-eyebrow-up grins. I am in love with her happy noises and squeals and her sloppy, slobbery-mouthed hand-chewing.
She is just starting to pull her little legs up under her, when she's on her tummy, and even tilting a bit to one side so it's possible that rolling over isn't far away (*sigh*). Today she was so desperate to figure out how to reach out and touch her sister and finally, after trying for a long, long time, she got one hand, very deliberately, over onto Pea's arm. The look of relief and accomplishment on her face was intense.
Every time Penelope even looks her way her face lights up. Pea has no idea what she's in for--a permanent shadow, for sure.
And as for me, things are getting better. It's lots and lots of work, obviously, but so far the combo of vitamins, herbs, and hormones is helping. A lot. I feel like I'm slowly coming out of the fog. I'm also finding that on the days I find time to read a little, even two pages, or take the shower I've been wanting, even a fast one, I feel less intense and dark. It means, of course, letting go of other things (like just letting the house fall completely to shit for the day, or trying to go anywhere) but the feeling of stealing a tiny piece of time just for myself seems to make everything else fall together in the end.
I love my girls so so so much. I feel so lucky to be Mama to them and be entrusted with their little hearts and lives. I had never really thought about having a girl, much less TWO, but it's funny how god knows exactly what your own heart needs in order to split wide open and then start to heal. I'm not saying it couldn't have happened any other way. I'm just saying that I've gone from being terrified to being deeply grateful that this is what was granted me...
As imperfectly as I do this motherhood thing, as dark as some of the days can get, as frustrating as the details of it can be, still, I am deeply happy and fiercely in love with my little family...
Posted by Annagrace at 12:04 AM
One of these is challenging and hopeful. Please don't take it lightly. (Do you really want to be sarcastic and jaded about every single thing? Really?)
One of these things is brilliant and well-said. Read it anyway. (Even if you normally prefer your poetry in rhyming couplets. Or haiku. Or whatever.)
And the last thing is just plain old pretty. This is the only one you're allowed to ignore. (Because she's mine and I'm keeping her. And also because I EXPECT you to find your own child more beautiful. If you don't, you should probably go talk to someone...)
The 4 Things:
Call and Response
Maybe someone comes to the door and says,
“Repent,” and you say, “Come on in,” and it’s
Jesus. That’s when all you ever did, or said,
or even thought, suddenly wakes up again and
sings out, “I’m still here,” and you know it’s true.
You just shiver alive and are left standing
there suddenly brought to account: saved.
Except maybe that someone says, “I’ve got a deal
for you.” And you listen, because that’s how
you’re trained—they told you, “Always hear both sides.”
So then the slick voice can sell you anything, even
Hell, which is what you’re getting by listening.
Well, what should you do? I’d say always go to
the door, yes, but keep the screen locked. Then,
while you hold the Bible in one hand, lean forward
and say carefully, “Jesus?”
There, now. Aren't you glad you saw all of it?
Posted by Annagrace at 11:27 PM
Where do I begin? Of course it's been a while (again). There's so much daily life tumbling around in my head and heart and then below that is a deep river of emotions. Sometimes the words just won't come out. Easily.
I just start to feel like I'm getting used to this new level of the word "tired"...and then--oh, wait, here we go--up another notch it goes. But mostly things are good. Settling down, you could say. There are lots and lots of tiny, perfect moments every single day. Beauty. There is also just enough insanity to make me feel really, really good about that tiny hormone pill I take every morning.
Penelope continues to love Sister, and she can be very intense about it. I lose track, throughout the day, of how often I've said, "Let her breathe--let her breathe!" and, "Don't hug her quite so tight, Bug, she knows you love her..."
Yesterday, Birdie was in her little Baby Papasan seat while I was brushing my teeth (I was trying to get us out the door first thing in the morning, which is always a bit tricky.) She started crying and then a moment later Pea was next to her, kneeling on the carpet and gently twisting the pacifier into Baby's mouth, just the way I always do it. I smiled at them over my toothbrush, Birdie still staring worriedly at me. "Look, Mama", Pea said and nestled her face close, "I taking care of her."
My hormones have been out of control since Birdie was a few weeks old. I started ovulating right away, if you can believe it. The same thing happened after Pea was born but I let myself be convinced that it was probably because Pea had put herself on a super regular nursing schedule when she was only a few weeks old and was going long night time stretches from early on. You know what? It's just the way I am, apparently. I only wish I could take some of this crazy fertility and rub it on some of my friends. Lord knows I'd share. My doctor told me that another century ago I'd have 12 children, easy. When I protested (the depression! The 20 years of sleepless nights!) and said I'd probably also be out of my MIND, she reminded me that a lot of my friends would be in similar circumstances so how would anyone know...? And to be grateful that I live now. Really makes you want to go back in time, eh? But it's not just ovulating early that's a problem. In fact, that's not even the main problem. It's the deep, dark places my mind has been going. Not suicidal and not in terms of harming the children in any way. But dark all the same. Still, hearing my midwife use the term "depression" felt a little like a slap across the cheek. A good slap, though. A wake-up slap. A "don't try to do this by yourself like you always do" slap. After a long chat with my doctor, in which I actually started crying (but I've cried a lot since this baby, so it's not really anything new), I took home a bunch of vitamins and herbs and instructions and I'm to see her again in a few weeks. What, exactly, is going on is still to be determined, but I'm finally addressing a health issue I've had for a long time from the physical side of things. I've done lots of therapy and emotional work over the years and I will be doing more soon but I've never really tackled these things in terms of my physical DNA. Like everything, it's going to take a while. I just want to be a better mother, you know? To stop holding myself to standards that are unattainable. To be able to stay in the moment and not have my brain spin completely out of control. To have more energy. To lose the black cloud that I'm always trying to outrun...
The other morning I decided that I needed sleep more than absolutely anything. I brought some of Penelope's toys and books into my room, got her a snack and something to drink, put the safety gate up at the top of the stairs, and put an Elmo DVD on repeat. Birdie had fallen asleep and I was attempting to have her nap in her crib so that I could sleep and Pea wouldn't wake her, etc., but she kept popping awake every time I would finally start to nod off. (Of course she did--because this is what parenting often looks like till your kids are at least 3 or 4: finally falling deeply, hungrily asleep only to be zapped awake by blood-curdling screams through the monitor.) After about an hour of working gently with her I came into my room one last time and fell asleep. Deep, exhausted, emotional sleep. Suddenly my eyes opened as I realized I was hearing her in the monitor. My tired brain finally registered that I had slept for a whole hour and 10 minutes--a miracle--but as I turned my head to look for Pea I realized the door was open. And she had been told that under no circumstances while Mama was asleep was she to leave the room (I'm always worried about her walking outside or accidentally hurting the baby). In a second I was through the door and in Adeleine's room, where I saw a whispering Penelope standing on the side of the crib and holding a stuffed animal just where Birdie could see it and coo and smile. "Pea", I said, breathless, "what are you doing, Baby? Did Sister wake up?" Pea nodded. "Soutter waked up and crying so Pea making her happy so Mama can sleep. Mama really tired." I started crying. Because I WAS so very tired, but also because I was so tired I hadn't heard little Birdie, and mostly because I would never, EVER want Pea to feel too much responsibility for her little sister. And yet it was so beautiful, and they were so peaceful and happy and Penelope had been singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her...
Birdie coos and gurgles and almost sounds like she's singing. She still slurps and chomps on her pretty little hands, turning them over and over and over and over. She still goes from 0 to 10 in 2 seconds flat--happiness can become hysteria if I leave her line of sight--but when she's happy, she is, quite simply, amazing. Butterfly eyes that open wide at the sight of you and then open even wider. A sweet little mouth and always that little tongue, looking like she's trying to blow bubbles or sound out syllables. Fingers and hands and fingers and hands, with just the prettiest, square nail beds.
I feel like Penelope and I are back on track. She's handled everything from this last year really, really well, but the first couple months of Birdie's life she did everything fun or interesting with Daddoo. Just because I tended to fall apart once the evenings or weekends arrived. I would live for the couple of hours each day where I could have just ONE sobbing child attached to me, so I would send them off to the store or park or wherever and try not to think about how much I missed just being with Penelope and how easy it all now seemed. In the process of all that Jeffrey became Fun Parent and I became She Whose Endless Rules Must Be Tolerated Until My Precious Father Comes Home and Saves Me. Mostly, we just needed to be able to have the occasional fun one-on-one time, where she didn't have to feel like she was fighting for my attention with She Who Constantly Suckles AGAIN. So I'm being better about finding time with her, even if it's just a random 10 minutes where we can play with her doctor kit while the baby is asleep.
You know the phrase "whistling in the dark?" It means keeping one's courage up. I think about that a lot right now...
Posted by Annagrace at 4:22 PM
Here's one thing three years of pregnancy and parenting have taught me: No matter what you do or how you do it, people will think you're weird. Even if you're not. It's really that simple. Don't believe me? Have a kid.
You feed your kids all organic fruits and vegetables. Someone will think you're elitist.
You feed your kids some organic fruits and vegetables but mostly just try to feed them fruits and vegetables. Someone will think you're missing the point.
You don't worry about organics, preferring to just focus on them eating whole, natural food as much as possible. Someone will think you're splitting hairs.
You never give your kids sugar. Someone will think you're a real kill-joy.
You let your kids have sugar occasionally, but prefer that it's unrefined and prefer that it's thought of as a treat and not an expectation or used as a reward. Someone will think that you're a chronic worrier.
You're not that worried about your kids' sugar intake as long as it's not before bed and as long they brush their teeth. Someone will intimate that you might as well start a fund for your kids' future diabetes.
You co-sleep with your children religiously. Someone will imply that your children will never know how to be alone with their own thoughts.
Your children sleep with you when they're infants, when they're sick, when they have nightmares, when their sad. Someone, several someones in fact, will probably tell you that they're sick, have nightmares, and are sad simply because they're not sleeping with you full-time.
Your kids--either due to heavy-sleeping on your part, general thrashing about by any or all family members, weird work/sleep schedules on the part of the adults, or any other legitimate reason--have almost never slept in the same bed as you. Someone, somewhere will tell you flat out that your kids are obviously insecure and obviously unattached--even as they're sleeping peacefully in your arms or hanging off your person.
All your children were born at home and you have amazing stories about their births. A LOT of people are going to say something pretty dumb and naive about infant mortality and modern medicine (never mind that the statistics are NOT in the hospitals' favor).
Your children were born naturally, but in a hospital setting as that's where your midwives or doctors (for whatever reason) prefer to work, and you have amazing stories about their births. Someone, several people, will turn up their noses and do the equivalent of calling you a fraidy-cat.
You happen to be in the small percent of the population who had a legitimate need for a c-section(s). Plenty of people, naive and/or over-zealous, are going to pretty much tell you flat-out that you're a failure and lump you in (mentally, at least) with the sort of silly, Hollywood girls who schedule their birth around lame things like swimsuit season and photo shoots and making sure their kids all have birthdates ending in a 5.
Your kids go to public school--for any number of reasons, all of them completely legitimate to you. Random people will have fun name-dropping their kids' private school and telling you all about the accelarated programs they're in, the alternative and/or holistic approach their amazing (amazing!) school takes, the foreign languages, and the incredible colleges their kids are getting into (regardless of whether or not you give a shit).
Your kids go to private school. The people you were just harrassing are gonna be happy to hand it right back--and tell you all about their community involvement, their daily adventures in diversity, and how THEIR kids are going to grow up to be teachers and actually make a difference in their world.
You homeschool your kids, for any number of reasons all of them completely legitimate to you. People everywhere will want to have long, long, long discussions with you about all kinds things that all end in comparing your kids to theirs, in a real nit-picky fashion, and wondering whose is smarter and whose is better "adjusted" (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean).
I could go on and on and on (and on and on)... Potty training, television, learning to read, breastfeeding, the diapering options, etc. Whatever you do, regardless of how much it makes sense to you and fits within the context of your life, someone--many someones--is going to tell you flat out, imply, suggest, something, that what you're doing is just plain wacky. Odd. Funny. Weird. Even if you feel like the most normal, middle of the road person.
I've never asked a question of my readers, but what part of your parenting do you feel like you've had to defend the most--even if it seems ridiculous? I'd love to hear your stories...weirdos.
Posted by Annagrace at 10:10 PM